Biography and History

Manuel Bernabe Mujica Láinez was born on Sept. 10, 1910, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, son of Manuel Láinez, a lawyer, and Lucía Mujica Farías (Láinez). He was educated in Buenos Aires, and received his B.A. from the Escuela Nacional de San Isidro in 1928. In 1932, he began working as a staff member of the daily newspaper La Nación, a position which he held until his retirement in 1969.

Mujica Láinez first attained fame as a writer with the publication of two collections of short stories: Aquí vivieron (Sudamericana, 1949) and Misteriosa Buenos Aires (Sudamericana, 1951). In the 1950s, Mujica Láinez also achieved recognition for his cycle of novels known as “The Saga of Buenos Aires Society.” The novels comprising the cycle are Los idolos (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1953), La casa (Sudamericana, 1954, reprinted 1984), Los viajeros (Sudamericana, 1955, repr. 1984), and Invitados en El Paraíso (Sudamericana, 1957). In 1962, Mujica Láinez's novel Bomarzo was first published. This lengthy novel, based on the real-life Prince Pier Francesco Orsini, Duke of Bomarzo who lived in sixteenth-century Italy, is considered by many critics to be an ambitious and imaginative novel, which is quite different in subject matter and style from the Latin American “Boom” novels that were published in the early and mid-1960s.

Bomarzo was set into both a cantata and an opera by the noted Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera; the opera's libretto was written by Mujica Láinez. The opera premiered at the Lisner Auditorium of George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., in 1967; in the same year, it was prohibited from being staged at the Teatro Colón, in Buenos Aires.

Other novels which Mujica Láinez has written include El unicornio (Sudamericana, 1965), published in English as The Wandering Unicorn (Taplinger, 1982), Cecil (Sudamericana, 1972), Sergio (Sudamericana, 1976), and Los cisnes. He also wrote biographies which were mostly of famous Argentinian gauchos, art criticism, and travel narratives (both of life in Buenos Aires and of travels in Europe). His Obras completas [complete works] were published by Editorial Sudamericana of Buenos Aires, in 1978 (Vol. 1) and 1980 (Vol. 2).

Throughout his career, Mujica Láinez was a member of literary societies in Argentina, namely, the “Sociedad Argentina de Letras” (SADE) and “Academia Argentina de Letras.” He served as vice-president of SADE from 1950 to 1953, and was elected to membership of the Argentine Academy of Letters in 1956. He was friends with many poets and writers who were active in these groups, such as Ángel Battistessa, C. Cordova Iturburu, and Eduardo González Lanuza. He was also elected to membership in the “Academia Argentina de Bellas Artes” in 1959.

Mujica Láinez was awarded numerous literary prizes for his writings. In 1955, he won the “Gran Premio de Honor de la SADE” and also the Second National Prize for Literature (Argentina) for his novel La casa, published in 1954. In 1963, he won Argentina's First National Prize of Literature, and in 1964 he won the John F. Kennedy Prize for Bomarzo.

Mujica Láinez was married to Ana de Alvear [“Anita”], in 1936; they had three children Diego (b. 1937), Ana (b. 1939), and Manuel (b. 1941). He lived in Buenos Aires until December 1969, when he left Buenos Aires for the smaller city of Córdoba, where he bought and lived in an old, long-abandoned house called “El Paraíso” [Paradise]. Here, he wrote and entertained many writers and friends until his death on April 21, 1984.

For the names and relationships of family members, refer to the family tree: Family tree.

Source: From the finding aid for C0819

  • Manuel Mujica Láinez Papers. 1901-1984 (inclusive), 1918-1983 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0819

    The Manuel Mujica Láinez Papers consists of the papers of the Argentinian novelist, short story writer, biographer, and essayist Manuel Mujica Láinez (1910-1984). These papers primarily contain correspondence he received from Argentinian and Spanish writers, as well as family correspondence. Also included are a few manuscripts by Mujica Láinez, several poems and nonfiction manuscripts by others, and a small amount of photocopied or printed material.